Saving Your Rejections or Maybe Savoring Them?

2016 started with a rejection letter in my email. Yup. January 1. Should I take up a new profession?

April 2008 Writer's Digest / click for larger version

April 2008 Writer’s Digest / click for larger version

While looking for some notes on one of my stories, I found this clipping tucked into a folder. On January 1, 2016. I think I was meant to find it.

You see the rejection letter I received didn’t even tell me my poems weren’t chosen, it merely announced the winner, commended poems and named finalists. Impersonal was the only way to describe it. No mention of my work at all. This had never happened to me before, and I decided to go back and look at other rejection letters I have received over the years. Two stood out.

Thank you for allowing [Publication] to consider your poetry submission. We have read your work carefully, but must decline to publish. We regret that the volume of submissions we receive and the small size of our staff prevent us from giving a more personal response, but we hope that you will submit to us again.

Thank you for submitting your work to [contest]. Though your work was not selected as a winning entry, we appreciated the opportunity to consider it for publication. […] We know how much effort went into your submission, and we regret the use of this form. The volume of manuscripts we receive makes a personal reply impossible.

Again, thank you for your interest in [publication]. Please try us again in the future.

Both of those letters were from 2013. I stopped printing and saving rejections after that. It’s discouraging to receive a rejection. For it to arrive in a generic form that goes to every submitter is downright disheartening. Do they really want you to submit again in the future or are they just trying to soften the blow?

After I stumbled on this clipping, I began to think about the mounting rejection letters in my inbox and remembered that in the fall of 2015 an editor took the time to tell me my poems were good and which was the strongest. That encouraged me. So, maybe Gobbell is right. We should save our rejections and see how they change over time.

Maybe there are levels of rejection letters. Which one you receive correlates to the quality of your work, getting more personal as the quality rises.

I’ll begin saving all my rejections again with the goal that they become more personal and eventually turn into acceptances. For the record, I plan to submit more this year, both short stories and poetry. I’ll keep you updated on that as time goes by.

What about you? Do you save your rejection letters? What are some of your writing goals for 2016?

  • I actually think it’s a wonderful practice to save rejections — to a degree. There’s no reason to stack up all those form letters, though. What I do is allot a column in my submissions charts for type of feedback, and I plug in “form rejection,” “personal rejection,” “invitation to send more,” “revision request,” or “acceptance.” That way I can sort my whole chart chronologically and look at the shades of response over time and see how they’ve changed. I also copy/past or store snippets of particularly personalized and uplifting responses.

    • That’s a great idea, Annie! I use Story Tracker to keep track of my submissions and it would be easy to copy and paste snippets from emails into it. I’m submitting to several contests at the end of this week, both short story and poetry. I’ll try to remember to add what kind of response I get to the submission file.

      • Yay! Just remember: some contests and markets *never* send personal rejections, so those really aren’t a measure of your progress — just a reality of that market.

  • I’ve gotten winner announcements, form letters, and personal notes. They all hurt, but you’re right; the personal notes do soften the blow with hope for the future. Don’t give up, Missy. I appreciate your talents and want you to share with the world.

    • Thank you, Staci. I hope to have edits of The Widows of Wyatt Abney finished before spring. In the meantime, I’m using a different method for planning my next novel. I’ll let you know how that goes.